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Day 179

14 May 2010

Miles traveled: 15,367 (24,731 km)


Brazil Pt 3: Geografía

Maps of continents, with their assortment of colors, scales and dotted lines, can’t express what far really feels like. Dang Brazil is big! Claudio and I drove almost non-stop for four days. We drove 18 hours of every 24. What seemed close on the map, potholes and unannounced speed bumps managed to stretch into eternities. We changed as many tires in as many days as a testament to the roads temper. The road we had driven was the equivalent of traversing all of Central America combined. On the other hand, we had driven through just four states of lesser-known Brazil (Pará, Maranhão, Piauí, and Bahia). Temperatures ranged from uncomfortable to unbearable while precipitation ranged from humid to soaking wet. No political, topographical or shaded relief map could do justice to these distances. Even the high tech illustrations of the mighty and modern Google Earth would seem nothing more than a betrayal of the truth in comparison to this marathon.

Day four was a record-breaking day. We drove more than 500 miles in nearly 20 hours, from inland Piauí to the Atlantic coast of Bahia. With little more than an address and no map of the city of Salvador, we somehow managed to find Majo and our friends Gabriela and Eduardo in the midst of its 3 million inhabitants. Majo and I were reunited and Claudio was finally going to visit Salvador, which I had talked so much about. They were waiting for us with clean towels, a comfy mattress and most importantly, a wonderful home-cooked meal. Who could ask for anything more?

There is so much to tell that I am forced to summarize. With Gaby and Eduardo we ate muceca de peixe, swam in the crystal clear waters of Porto da Barra and joined mestre Lua Rasta’s roda de capoeira in the Praça Terreiro de Jesus. We wandered the streets of Barra and asked every restaurant for their used oleo da cozinha and refilled El Chaski’s insatiable appetite for waste vegetable oil (WVO).

We met Claudio and Saraiva who inspired us with their work on environmental initiatives in their non-profit Germen. They insisted that we were their inspiration and invited us to present the Biodiesel Diaries at a national conference. But then, Claudio, Majo and I, all fell victims to a 24-hour stomach flu and were so debilitated that, sadly, we were unable to attend. After 5 days in Salvador, Claudio boarded a plane to Chile and Majo and I continued on with el Chaski.

We joined the small town life of Andaraí, hiked in the Chapadas Diamantinas and Camped on the deserted southern Coast of Bahia. On a dirt road with no signs, a starry night with no moon, a cacao farm with no end, we stopped to fix another flat tire. And then we drove until we couldn’t drive any further. Truck stops became our home between homes, shower between showers and meal between meals and yet life was good. And so we made our way south across the state of Espírito Santo to Rio de Janeiro.

We met Faber and Marina who took us in like friends of many life times. Faber handed us over his Geography class in Copacabana and we redesigned space ship earth (what a fun activity!) and developed all kinds of sustainable solutions for our unsustainable lifestyles. We explored the city by bus and metro. We wandered the length of Ipanema and sat at the foot of rock formations called Pão de Açucar. We even went to the stadium to witness fútbol in all its splendor.

The Maracanã stadium dressed in red and black for a quarterfinal match of the Copa Libertadores. The sold out stadium of 80,000 fans sang and danced but after 90 minutes, the home favorites, Flamingo, fell to a strong side. The team in blue, La Universidad de Chile, left with three points after a 3-2 upset on foreign soil. Our hearts cheered, but we bit our tongues. The adrenaline of cheering for Chile as infiltrated Brazilians was too much to bear. ¡Foi um dia pra não esquecer!
And then we were back on the road. In three weeks, the temperatures dropped 40 degrees. We went from the upper nineties in north of the country to the low fifties in the southern state of Paraná. We went from shorts and flip-flops to boots, jeans and fleeces and never looked back. After Curitiba, we pointed our car towards the Western horizon and made way for Foz, a small city on the tri-frontera, intersection of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.

There was one last adventure to be had before crossing into Argentina. We had to visit the largest waterfall on the planet, the Cataratas de Iguaçu. We were not disappointed. Every view was amazing. We looked at it from above, from below, from one side and then the other. Then we walked out into the middle of it. The water never ended. It roared and covered us in mist. It carved islands, canyons and gorges and is a natural wonder of the earth. It was so simple, so great and so beautiful. We were struck by awe and felt so tiny and humble on this giant planet.

View our route!

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